Three Questions For Daniel Meachum on PSPS

October 28, 2020

Last year the Lab was faced with several Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) which provided unique challenges to a large scientific community such as the Lab. A diverse group of experts from across the Lab community came together to form the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and ensure the Lab could successfully manage PSPS events.

Daniel is the Lead Hazards Analyst on the Lab’s Emergency Management team. Daniel provides a valuable service by assessing the natural, technological, and manmade hazards that could pose a risk to the Lab. He uses modeling software to analyze and tracks hazards, which helps the Lab prepare for and respond to different emergency situations.

You taught emergency management and statistics at Boston University. How does what you did in the classroom differ from the probabilities you can provide to the Lab?

I see a lot of similarities between the two. The use of modeling and simulation in emergency management is a cornerstone of the BU Healthcare Emergency Management Program curriculum and a central part of my role at LBNL. The Security & Emergency Services Division (SES) is responsible for identifying hazards and quantitatively assessing the potential consequences to ensure that we have the appropriate compliance-based emergency planning commensurate with the hazards of our site.

What is the worst case scenario you have modeled for the Lab’s geography and potential disasters?

LBNL has a significant profile of natural, technological, and human-caused hazards that we are continually monitoring, analyzing, and planning for in the SES Division. Worst-case scenarios include emergencies with the potential for cascading events and multiple simultaneous emergencies. An example of a cascading event is a seismic event that causes utility/infrastructure damage, wildfires, or hazardous material releases. Multiple simultaneous emergencies could be a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event during a pandemic.

How likely are any of these scenarios, and what can we do to be ready?

In California, we have seen the direct effect of these hazards, especially in the past few years. 5 of the top 10 largest California wildfires have occurred in 2020. Air quality issues continue to be a challenge during wildfire season. We are seeing more severe fire weather, causing PSPS events. To be ready - have a family emergency plan and supplies. Get involved with your local community emergency preparedness. Sign up for local emergency alerts (including LabAlert).